Día De Los Muertos: Thoughts From My Childhood

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image-2∞Miguel Alfredo Xicomoztoc Cid

Día de los Muertos is a celebration with which many are familiar. With it brings a mixture of emotions: life. November 1 through November 2 is a bridge honoring those who have passed. Many construct altars, and other offerings to the deceased, in remembrance; it is a celebration of their life, connecting them to us.

 Growing up in household that embraced the idea of the Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, helping my father prepare was just what we did— it was like celebrating Christmas or any other holiday. Black and white photos of great tios and ones I learned about later, 99cent candles burning, with endless amounts of paper mache calaveras, copal smoke, and golden flowers, were always around during the festivities.

My father enjoyed this time of the year, because he might find some sort of skeleton he might be inspired by. He was an artist and man known for many things; one was his connection to Día De Los Muertos.

I remember he told us he would pay my sisters and I five dollars to make paper mache masks from one of his molds; my brother was the oldest so he was always running around else where after a while. Strips of paper bags from the grocery store and the adhesive, we would construct skeleton masks from his plastered molds, imagining the money we would earn for the flea market. But he only paid up once, so maybe my brother was on to something. When we were finished my father would paint each one different, unique.

There was also the other style of masks he would make and teach at La Galloria Posada—the gauze strips, with my other sister; the sister I haven’t seen or heard from.

In elementary school I never talked about our rituals, because other kids wouldn’t understand or I felt my culture was one designated as other, at the time. How could I explain staying at cemetery with my parents and their friends overnight? They would probably make fun of me like they did my 20 dollar shoes. It seemed like that a lot. I treated my life outside of school like a secret, and hid it from the other children at school; even when my mother would make cultura like Aztec dance part of the curriculum taught.

Now that I think about the day of remembrance critically, I find it incredibly important to continue to remember those who have past.

Remembering is a way to understand the world; to place one self historically through relatives, friends, and so on. Without remembering the past, I would have never known that my tio died in the Battle of the Bulge, an air trooper. I would have never known since there are seemingly no Latinos in war movies.

We learn from our past and celebrating them strengthens our own awareness, our spirituality. I am able to see them surrounding me at different angles of my life, by simply remembering. Remembering and celebrating—celebrating people like my cousin Ron brings me back to his A.I.D.S. patch, sewn in a giant quilt. Celebrating old friends like Roger reminds to listen, for one may never get a chance to again. Candles flicker for more family members and friends than I would wish to celebrate in death, rather in than in life.

But they are celebrated and brought back to life, in us. And we wear them like threading in the mask, patchwork in the outfit. When I think of Día De Los Muertos I think of my father and then the rest follow. And I think and wonder about all those before him, and who he celebrated, as we prepare for the 1st.

Xicomoztoc Cid ∞